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School Appoints AI Chatbot as Principal Headteacher

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Cottesmore School, a boarding school in West Sussex for boys and girls aged 7 to 13, has worked with an artificial intelligence developer to create a robot called Abigail Bailey to support the school’s headmaster. But that's not all...

Children in the grounds of Cottesmore School, England
Credit: Cottesmore School

Tom Rogerson, headmaster of Cottesmore, where fees are almost £32,000 ($39,000) per year, is using the robot to give him advice on issues ranging from how to support fellow staff members to helping pupils with ADHD and writing school policies, reports The Telegraph.

Mr Rogerson told Century, the tech company working with the school: "Firstly, my vision for technology is for it to serve us. Secondly, it has to increase face-to-face time for the humans in the building. It should increase the time that we spend together and Century helps us to do that. It is increasingly helping our teachers to be even more pupil-facing by automating their marking and planning and giving our teachers more time to actually focus on teaching and being with the pupils."

Mr Rogerson said the AI principal has been developed to have a wealth of knowledge in machine learning and educational management, with the ability to analyse vast amounts of data. The headmaster says this is not about replacing teachers, but assisting them. Part of the school's objective is for its AI bots to free up more time for teachers, and Mr Rogerson says that the school has the highest number of employees in its 130 year history.

“We are stepping into the future while preserving the core values of traditional education. The introduction of AI is not about replacing our dedicated educators but about augmenting their capabilities and ensuring our students receive the best education possible,” says Mr Rogerson.

The appointment of an AI robot as principal headteacher comes after Cottesmore became the first school in the country to advertise for a Head of AI to help embed technology into the curriculum and advise teachers on reducing their workload. After conducting interviews, Mr Rogerson decided to appoint another robot to the role, known as Jamie Rainer - “a highly trained adviser on generative AI” that will assist the school with AI strategy and planning.

Part of Jamie's advice has been to provide all pupils at the school with their own individual AI robots to help them understand their individual learning styles. And, thereby, help the children develop a deeper understanding of AI and how it impacts the world around them, now and in the future.

It looks like this, some would say, 'radical' approach is likely to be copied by others as, in May this year, the school hosted a free conference on the topic of artificial intelligence, reports Independent Schools Parent. Tickets were snapped up within a day, so the team opened it up to a live national and international online audience through a livestream broadcast.

There was certainly a global buzz surrounding the event - designed to assesses the potential positives and negatives of artificial intelligence’s future influence on education - as educationalists joined from Singapore, Scotland, Nigeria, New York, Hong Kong, Honduras and from many places in between.


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